A Book, Bubble Tea and Sympathy

So. As the title indicates, I am going to share three things with you.

The book: put in simplest terms, it's wonderful. I just finished it. Anyone interested in food or cooking should race right out and buy it. Saying it is merely a book about a cooking class is a gross understatement. It's a book about understanding food and how it's cooked. It's enticing. It's charming. It's sensual. It is NOT a book of recipes. And it's a lovely story about everyday people who share a love of cooking coming together with all their individual problems. You'll adore it. After you read it, pass it on to a foodie friend. Maybe even someone who isn't. Buy it for a Christmas or birthday gift. The name? The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.

The sympathy? I am going to take a short break from my blogging to have a hip replacement. Not something I am looking forward to, but as everyone informs me- ad nauseum- it's better than a knee. (Which doesn't give me much comfort, but fine.) And remind me never to say this to anyone else who is having a hip replaced. It's annoying. It makes you feel as though you will be the dunce of the class if you are not up and walking without aid in a week and driving in three weeks. Sans pain. Oh well, hopefully I will be back sooner than I expect, cooking, writing and reading about your cooking experiences.

Which brings me to the third item: Bubble Tea. I think the best thing about cooking, cookbooks, cooking blogs and cooking shows is you never stop learning. Every day there is an unfamiliar recipe, a little known ingredient, a remake of an old favorite- you never know what's coming next. And so it is with this unique and delicious recipe called Strawberry Basil Bubble Tea.

Have you ever heard of Bubble Tea? I bet those of you who live on the west coast have. How best to describe it? It's part drink, part dessert snack and all fun! It's non-alcoholic, non-carbonated and sweet, although it has much less sugar than a typical soft drink. The unique ingredient in Bubble Tea is the large tapioca pearl, which has a consistency of gummy candy. Being heavier than the drink, they tend to always stay near the bottom of the glass. These drinks are served in see-through glasses with an extra wide straw to slurp up the tapioca pearls.

The Bubble Tea craze has been huge in Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia for 15 years or so. The original Bubble Tea consisted of a hot mixture of Taiwanese black tea, brown large pearl tapioca, condensed milk and honey. Iced versions appeared soon and then along came green Bubble Tea which uses jasmine-infused green tea instead of black tea. Peach or plum flavoring began to appear, then more flavors were added. Flavors may be added in the form of powder, fruit juice, pulp or syrup, then add to the hot black or green tea, shake or blend with ice until chilled. Cooked tapioca pearls are added at the end.

Much to my surprise, the most recent issue of Veranda magazine had a Bubble Tea recipe in its excellent, albeit small, cooking section. It jumped right off the page at me and I couldn't resist trying it.

First, find the straws: specially made fat ones so you can suck up the tapioca pearls. Which does not sound enormously appealing at first, but turned out to be fun.

Then find the large pearl tapioca; I couldn't find anything but small pearl around here so I mail-ordered it.

Now the strawberry purée might have been a problem but I had ordered three purées from The Perfect Purée Company in California and one of them was strawberry. The magazine says you can find this item at speciality stores, but I can't find it here. (I bet you could improvise here with no problem.)

So, with all the ingredients lined up, I made my first Bubble Tea. It was refreshing, delightful, unusual and I can't wait to serve it to company. I was floored when I tasted this recipe- I loved the flavors. And now that I have the big straws- such fun- everyone will want to take some home. Thank God they come in enormous packages.

Strawberry Basil Bubble Tea
(Adapted from Veranda Magazine, July/August 2009)

Make a simple syrup: 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cool completely.

For the Bubble Tea:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/8 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh mint
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brewed, iced tea ( I used pomegranate flavored tea; use any you like but the original recipe called for passion fruit tea.)
1/2 cup simple syrup (see above)
1/4 cup frozen, prepared strawberry purée, thawed (available at specialty stores)
1/2 cup large tapioca pearls, cooked per instructions on the box

Puree fresh strawberries and strain through a fine sieve. Pour 1/2 cup of this purée into a small shallow container and freeze to make granité.

Using a mortar and pestle, combine basil, mint, sugar and 1 tablespoon of iced tea to make a syrupy paste.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the remaining purée, basil-mint mixture, the remaining iced tea, simple syrup and the thawed, prepared purée. Chill at least 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve: fill the bottom of each glass with 1 tablespoon of the cooked large pearl tapioca. Top with the strawberry- basil tea mixture to about 1/2 inch from the rim of the glass. With a spoon scrape the granité and place on top. Add a mint garnish and serve with a wide-gauge straw. (Available at tentea.com or bobateadirect.com.)

Serves 6-8 as a pre-dessert or 4 as a dessert.


  1. hip replacement!? ga! i'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers, barbara, and hope you're back to good in no time at all!
    meanwhile, i've seen bubble tea in blog land, but never in 3D. it looks extremely interesting, that's for sure!

  2. Good luck Barbara, I'll be thinking of you and sending good vibes for speedy recovery!



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